Text: Régis Rocca -  Pictures: Régis Rocca &  SIRPA AIR - Anthony Jeuland © sbap 2016

100 years old and still wielding a tomahawk.

Its history is intertwined with that of two Air Forces that were and still are among the jewels of military aviation.
It was born thanks to the sacrifice and the will of a few volunteer young men who were ready to fight and die for their ideals of liberty and justice.
All this started exactly 100 years ago.

This is 1916, WW1 is raging, the opposing powers are embarking on futile battles that cost hundreds of thousands of young lives. In the midst of all this, a few Americans (whose nation is still neutral in this conflict) decide to fight alongside the Allies.
They will enlist in the French Foreign Legion and some of them will experience fierce combat in the trenches, on the French side.
Thanks to the financial support of a number of patrons and to the influence of some American individuals in France, a small group gives birth to what will rapidly become the famous "Escadrille La Fayette", N124, flying Nieuport aircraft.
It is of course named after Marquis de La Fayette who similarly volunteered to fight on American soil in the XVIIIth century.
Their badge was the idea of their commanding officer, Capitaine G. Thébault and then developed by Harold B. Willis: the head of a Seminole warrior, symbolizing strength and courage, and also notably painted on Remington ammunition boxes!
Day after day until the USA officially entered the war, the legend was written, mixing tragedies and victories for his French-led American unit.
100 years later, Escadron de Chasse 2/4 "La Fayette" is still animated by that very spirit of abnegation and excellence, it is the heir of the original Escadrille (one of the 4 constituting the Escadron). It is the only French unit flying the Mirage 2000N and is based on Base Aérienne 125, in Istres (South of France). The Escadron initially specialized in nuclear strategic strike, now also excels in all-weather, day and night conventional strike. It has proven its value over many years and on many theatres of operation.
To celebrate its anniversary, the unit chose to have a new livery for one of its aircraft, n°353. The design is a tribute to this special Franco-American friendship, with the two flags side by side and of course the warrior's head on the fin.
The aircraft was painted in Istres by the one and only Adjudant "Harry", painter of all Tiger aircraft since 2009, assisted by Sergent-Chef "Jeff" over 12 days, on an original design by Régis "Rage" Rocca.
The result is up to expectations and the aircraft will be on display during the airshow season, as, after the official Centenary ceremonies, it will fly as leader of the Ramex Delta team.
I would like personally to thank Lt Colonel "Raph", the Traditions cell of EC 2/4 and all the men and women of the Escadron without whose unflinching support this job could not have been done in optimal conditions.

To watch the wonderful work of "Rage" & "Harry" just click on TV screen

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